Friday, November 14, 2014

"Francis gives the passport to married Eastern priests. Valid in the whole world."

Well this is pretty huge: the Holy Father has lifted most restrictions on the ministry of married Eastern Catholic priests worldwide. A decree from the Congregation for Oriental Churches was published back in June. Magister has a piece on it in his (Italian only) blog. In the US, in my understanding, married men were being admitted to presbyteral orders quite regularly, if in exception to the 1929 restriction on married men being ordained in the U.S. (which sparked a huge schism in the Ruthenian Church.), on a "case-by-case and exceptional basis," since 2008.

The document refers to Anglicanorum Coetibus (Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 historical and rather radical outreach to dissatisfied Anglicans: under those norms, married men could remain married and not only be ordained priests [a dispensation from the requirement for celibacy in the Latin Rite granted under John Paul II under the "Pastoral Provision"], but also have the rights and privileges belonging to Ordinaries -- i.e. juridical equivalents of Bishops, without the sacramental ordination into that rank of Holy Orders). It also provides a history of the restrictions in the US and the American continent of married Eastern Catholic priests.

The three modalities of exercise of the faculty to ordain married men by Eastern Churches outside their historical territory (where they already enjoy this faculty by tradition and law) outlined by "Pontificia Praecepta Pro Ecclesiis Orientalibus" are:

- in Eastern jurisdictions (Eparchies, Metroplitanates, Exarchies), the hierarchy has the right to ordain married men according to the tradition of their respective Church, but should inform in writing the local Latin bishops (where the candidate is from) and avail of any relevant information and opinion. 

- in areas without a local Eastern hierarchy, the faculty is given to the Ordinary who has their care, as long as the local Episcopal Conference is informed 

- in territories where Eastern Catholics do not have any administrative structure and where their care is directly the responsibility of the Latin hierarchy, this faculty is reserved to the Congregation for Eastern Churches which will exercise it in individual and exception cases, after having ascertained the opinion of the local Episcopal Conference.

[These are very rough and quick translations of the Italian]

The decree is dated June 14, 2014. However, this is the first I'm hearing of it -- and Magister published this blog only today. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Latin American Catholicism

On Tuesday (Nov. 11), the Pew Forum published their report on Religion in Latin America. The news media have been picking up on this today. For anyone interested in the Church, this report is a must read.

First, the simple snapshot, which these two graphics so clearly provide:

 94% in 1910, about the same in 1970, and then an accelerating, precipitous decline. 69% of Latin Americans claim a Catholic identity in 2014. [What is it with the 1970s??]

Look at the numbers in the chart below: Argentina, down to 71% from 91%; Brazil (the largest Catholic country in the world), down to 61%, Guatemala and El Salvador, 50% and Honduras, 46% (that is a majority of Hondurans are no longer Catholic). Uruguay is at the lowest, 42%, the most secular Latin American country.

What's also fascinating is that some countries showed an increase (15% in Colombia) in the Catholic population between 1910 and 1970. But since then, every single country has lost Catholics.

The two fastest growing groups are Protestant (which would include mainline, evangelical and, most especially, Pentecostal, with all kinds of overlaps), and a full 8% of Latin Americans consider themselves religiously unaffiliated (the equivalent of "nones" in US studies.)

The Church is bleeding. Haemorrhaging. There can be no doubt about this at all.



A Catholic seminary in Macon?

Parishioner Pete Konekamp, a veteran radio journalist, shared this on Facebook earlier today. It's posted here with his permission. A fascinating tidbid of Georgia Catholic history:

[Photo courtesy Pete Konekamp]
Throwback Thursday takes a detour off the main road and deep into the woods of north Macon. There, in the woods off Forest Hill Road, is more Georgia history you never knew.

In the late 1800's, Jesuit priests operated a seminary off a street in Macon named for Pope Pius IX. Pio Nono Avenue. The seminary, originally called Pio Nono College was dedicated in 1873. 

Renamed St. Stanislaus College, it burned to the ground in 1921. With that, all traces of the seminary disappeared. Or did they? The Jesuits established a retreat site on what was then, a hundred acres of pristine Georgia woodland. The retreat had a swimming pool, a path on which to pray the Stations of the Cross and statues of the saints. Only one statue, of St. Peter, remains. It was toppled by vandals years ago and its head shattered. 

In the early 20th century, the land was purchased by North Winship, US Ambassador to South Africa. Winship lovingly preserved the site. On his death in 1965, the property fell into ruin and Winship's house was destroyed by fire. On the site there is a graffiti covered grotto, that once held a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The grotto remains, as slowly but surely, this once beautiful piece of history fades from view. Adjacent to it, is an apartment complex. It is surrounded by houses and consumed by vegetation. There is an effort underway to save the grotto but it hasn't gained much traction.

I first wrote about the grotto 40 years ago. The only thing that's changed in all that time, is the site has continued to deteriorate. If you are so inclined, see it while you can. Fall is the best time to visit, because the vegetation has died off and the insects and snakes are in hiding.

[Photo courtesy Pete Konekamp]
Doing some digging around the Interwebs, I found a reference to a little report in the New York Times from May 3, 1874 (PDF available online for free), on the ceremony where the corner-stone was laid for Pio Nono College, saying that the college would be the largest Catholic college in the South. It describes the procession as containing the Bishop of Savannah, priests, the Mayor and councilmen and twenty five religious, civil and military organizations, and a huge crowd! I always wondered where Pio Nono Avenue (pronounced by the locals as "pie-o nono"!)  in Macon came from.

Of course the jewel of Catholic Macon is St. Joseph Church, also built by the Jesuits. [Sadly, I simply cannot picture the SJs building anything quite so beautiful today ... ]. That deserves another post, perhaps after a new visit to this stunningly beautiful church ...


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The All Saints Vigil at the Dominican House of Studies

Cover of the program for the 2013 Vigil.
For years now, the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC has hosted a prayer service of chant, hymn, lessons, reflections, and a procession, for the Vigil of All Saints. The event continues to grow and has become a major young adult attraction in the area. Today is no exception.

I first attended this when I was a novice with the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, a couple of houses down from the OPs, back in 2006. It was mind-blowing, as this blog post from back then shows. In my discernment, it was one of the earliest hints that I had that I was not meant to stay with the CSPs (I wouldn't leave until late 2007) -- such beauty, beauty which had first drawn me to the Church, is something I would have had to fight for (or so it seemed) in that community.

I attended again in 2007: the Praise of His Glory.

In 2008, I was back in the greater DC area, as a pre-theologian at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg. At my behest, the members of my Jesu-Caritas (fraternity) group drove down for the Vigil. Two of those guys would later (the next year), enter the novitiate of the St. Joseph province. One of them just made his solemn profession, on August 15 of this year, and will soon be preparing for ordination to the diaconate (I need to send in a request for my finders fee to the Province! :)). [Of the other guys in the group, one is a happily married father, and another was just ordained a priest for the Diocese of Charlotte. And Ed, all I gots to say to you is pupusas!].


And then again in 2009.

Some of the links in the old blogs don't work. I can't find any of the homilies online anymore. The OP vocations page has a link with some videos. There is a transcript of a Religion & Ethics weekly story from 2006 still online. There's this piece from the Register. You can get a complete PDF of the program from the 2013 Vigil online. Photos from the 2011 Vigil online.

And finally, a collection of 12 great videos from the good folks at OP East from St. Peter's List. Lots of good stuff!

I am big fan of the St. Joseph Province. Apart from my friend mentioned above, another good friend just finished his Novitiate, and made his first profession in August, and there's at least 3 other guys I know who are students. OP East is an amazing powerhouse. The Lord has showered his blessings on this branch of St. Dominic's family, and, please God, these gifts will bear great fruit in the Church.

A sample -- Br. Dominic Verner's blog post at the Dominicana: The Irony of Lucifer's Fall.

All holy men and women of God, pray for us! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete 1941-2014

A photo of Msgr. Albacete I took at New York Encounter in 2012
At this talk given at New York Encounter in 2013, he relayed, in that deep, gravelly, raspy voice, and with that humor and authenticity that was so characteristic, his first encounter, as a young priest, with a visiting Polish Cardinal, the future John Paul II, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 
The two soon discovered they had a great deal in common, including an interest in theatre, poetry and science. Fr. Albacete asked the cardinal what was the proper theological language in which to speak about the love of God. “Poetry,” he answered. “When you tell your girlfriend you love her, you send her a poetic love note, not a math equation.” A deep friendship grew from this encounter and continued when the cardinal was elected Pope John Paul II. Fr. Albacete received his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome, in 1983.  [From his obituary, linked here.]
While at the Mount, my CL buddies and I talked briefly about trying to get him to come and speak. However, at that point, he was taking care of his sick brother, and was already in frail health himself.
If you have a moment, check out "God at the Ritz"
His very poignant and honest interview about 9/11, from PBS
To me, to distract one from this, to look for explanations, is obscene. It's an offense against the reality of what happened -- an offense against our humanity -- to look for political explanations, economic explanations, diplomatic explanations. "Oh, it's American foreign policy. It is the arrival into our shores of the Palestinian-Israeli fight. It is globalization. It is the cultural wars. It is American imperialism." All of that is proposed by the "Yes, but" brigade who got to work immediately after the explosion. It is obscene and irresponsible, because we were facing an attack, a hatred of humanity which is what we all have in common. It's our line of defense, our only one. And now that was gone. ... 
The people who did this, who planned it, who brought it about, I don't know what their theology or their ideology is. I take them at their word; they died with the name of God on their lips. People say they were sincere; well, yes, they were. They believed. This is an act for them that was a sincere act, the worship of their God. I take them at their word. Does that make them any less evil? Oh, but no, that precisely is the monstrosity. If they were not sincere, it would be a terrible thing, but ... it is the sincerity, it is the free will. I mean, they willed this to happen. They willed the destruction of humanity, of humanness, of everybody in that place on that day at the World Trade Center. This was a freely willed act, very sincere. And this sincerity is one of the horrible characteristics of the face of evil I saw that day. ...
People are like wingless chickens nowadays: interview with Robert Wright. [Verifying the religious sense, starting at 16m.] The impetus that drives humanity, this is religion. The passion for answering the existential question why? 

The story from the Vatican Insider, today. 
Therefore, Pope Francis’ words from Evangelii Gaudium are befitting our dearest Lorenzo: “Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but rather as one who shares a joy, points out a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet. The Church does not grow by proselytism but ‘by attraction.’” He was undoubtedly so captivating that he immediately became friends with anyone he met, because he was showing the beauty and usefulness of faith for facing life’s needs.With his tireless work, he witnessed to us how faith can become “intelligence of reality,” with his ability to recognize and embrace anyone without ambiguity, but for love of the truth that is present in every person. With his suffering, he has reminded us that there is no circumstance, not even the most difficult and toilsome, that can prevent the “I” from having a daily dialogue with the Mystery.
The funeral will be celebrated by Sean Cardinal O'Malley at St. Mary's Church in Manhattan on Tuesday, October 27. [Funeral arrangements at the CL website.]
What an amazing and great man. I am honored to have met him. 
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. I offered up my Mass today for the repose of his soul. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A week with Blessed Paul VI: Day Three


Today, a couple of selections from one of the watershed moments of his Papacy, the encyclical Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968), where the crisis of dissent in the Catholic Church erupted, and whose effects are still with us.

Paragraph 17 is generally regarded as prophetic:
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
This principle is worth reflecting on today, as even newer challenges to the dignity of human life arise in our time:
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. 

And this is truly prophetic, especially in light of what we have seen in the Church in the last two weeks
18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." (22) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.
Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man. 
In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men." (23)
Read it all! 

Beate Paule VI, ora pro nobis! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

A week with Blessed Paul VI: Day Two -- Ratzinger on Paul Vi

Pope Paul VI places the Cardinal's biretta on Joseph Ratzinger. Screenshot from L'Osservatore Romano
Well, this isn't by Bl. Paul VI. This is from the homily preached by the then Cardinal Archbishop of Münich and Freising, on the death of Pope Paul VI, August 10, 1978, Joseph Ratzinger. Sandro Magister on his (Italian only) blog, excerpted some bits. L'Osservatore published the entire text in Italian on the night of  Oct 19, the eve of the Beatification. Here is my summary and translation of the central message. (The full text can be found in an unofficial translation at EWTN)

Cardinal Ratzinger begins by noting that the Pope had died on the even of the Feast of the Transfiguration. His reflections are framed by the Feast. He notes that in the Churches of the East, "so loved by Paul VI," the Transfiguration is considered as a "synthesis of all: Cross and Resurrection, the present and the future of creation are reunited here. The Feast of the Transfiguration is the guarantee that the Lord does not abandon creation." Furthermore, the Transfiguration, which is known as "metamorphosis" in the Greek of the New Testament, shows to us the immediate relevance of this Feast. "In Christ Transfigured, what faith is, is revealed even more: transformation, which for man occurs throughout his life. From the point of view of biology, life is a metamorphosis, a continual transformation, which ends with death. To live means to die, means to be metamorphosed towards death. The account of the Lord's Transfiguration adds to it something new: to die, signifies to rise. Faith is a metamorphosis in which man matures definitively and becomes mature to be defined. For this reason, the evangelist John defines the Cross as a glorification."

Having established this framework of "metamorphosis," he notes how Pope Paul VI traveled this path of continual transformation:
Paul VI accepted his papal service more and more as a the metamorphosis of faith in suffering. The final words of the Risen Lord to Peter, after having constituted him pastor of his flock, were, "when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go" (John 21:18).  It was a hint of the Cross that would accompany Peter at the end of his life. In general, it was a hint of the nature of this service. Paul VI let himself be carried ever more where, humanly speaking, by himself, he did not wish to go. More and more the papacy meant for him to be girded with the vestments of another, and to be nailed to the Cross. We know that before his seventy-fifth birthday, and also before his eightieth birthday, he intensely battled with the idea of retiring. And we can imagine just how much the thought of not being able to belong anymore to himself weighed on him. Of not having any more a private moment. Of being chained until the end, along with his body which yielded, to a task which demanded, day after day, the full and living use of all the forces of a man. "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord." (Romans 14:7-8) These words from today's reading had literally defined his life. He has given a new value to authority as service, carrying it as a sort of suffering. He did not enjoy any pleasure in power, in position, in the success of a career, and precisely because of this, authority being a task endured -- it (authority) has become great and credible. 
Paul VI performed his service by faith. From this both his firmness or his disposition to compromise derived. For both he had to accept criticism, and even in some comments after his death, there has been no lack of bad taste. But today, a Pope who does not suffer criticism would fail at his task at this time. Paul VI resisted both the influence of the media (telecrazia) and the pressure of popular opinion (demoscopia), the two dictatorial powers of the present. He was able to do this because he did not take as parameters success or approval, but rather, conscience, which is measured by the truth, by faith. This is why in many occasions he sought compromise; faith leaves many things open. and offers a wide range of decisions. It requires as a parameter love, which it senses, obliges it to the whole, and thus, requires a lot of respect. And this is why he was able to be inflexible and decisive, when the essential tradition of the Church was at stake. In him, this hardness did not derive from the insensibility of the one whose path is dictated by the pleasure of power and the contempt of persons, but by the depth of faith, which enabled him to endure opposition. 
The above translation is my own. The entire homily is worth reading, and it turns out that EWTN has the full text online in English. It had been published first in L'Osservatore on the 50th anniversary of the election of Paul VI, in June 21.

The homily is a great testament to the Pope as a disciple, of the trajectory of faith, of a journey of continual discovery, of self, and of the Lord who calls, and who transforms. It reminds me of the metaphor Pope Francis has often used, of walking with the Lord, not stopping, not being spiritual tourists.

Apart from this moving testimony towards the Pope who called him to the Episcopacy, and made him a Cardinal, one can only marvel at the prophetic words of Cardinal Ratzinger about Paul VI's struggle with the thought of resigning the Papacy.

Beate Paule Sexte, ora pro nobis! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A week with Blessed Paul VI: Day One


Today, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI (reigned 1963-1978).

Pope Paul did not have a direct impact on me, as a layman or a priest. I was too young (and not in a Christian family, to boot) to remember the "year of three Popes," and the Humanae Vitae bombshell was before my time.

However, he is a pivotal figure for the history of the Church in the twentieth century, the architect of the Twenty-First Ecumenical Council, guiding four of its five sessions, and the main implementer of its directives for the renewal of the Church.

As a priest, I offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Missal of Bl. Paul VI pretty much all the time, and I pray the Divine Office from the Breviary revised by his directives. In that sense, he shapes my priestly ministry in a very direct, quotidian way.

For this upcoming week, I am going to share some quotes from his Papal magisterium, which is one of the most enduring legacies of any Roman Pontiff.

Today's selection comes from "Solemni Hac Liturgia," also known as the Credo of the People Of God, a document written by Bl. Paul Vi in 1968, as a response to the theological and doctrinal crisis of dissent that exploded as the Council came to an end. This selection is, fittingly, about the Sacred Liturgy, fons et culmen vitae ecclesia. The fact that the Holy Father felt the need to restate forcefully what had been the perennial teaching of the Church was a sad "sign of the times," evidence of the "smoke of Satan" that had infiltrated the Church, as he himself so famously remarked a year earlier.
24. We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.(35)

25. Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine,(36) as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.(37) 
26. The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.
Beate Paule Vi, ora pro nobis!